Should everyone have to donate their organs?
by Paul0014 on September 8, 2013 - 11:35pm
The article “The Ethics of Opt Out Organs,” by Carwyn Hooper, is about the ethical issues surrounding an “opt out” system of organ donation. Hooper begins the article by presenting a brief history of organ transplantation and then goes on to say that the supply of organs for transplantation has not kept up with the increasing demand; indeed there is a severe shortage. Then he talks about the different policies countries use to increase the number of donors. The three schemes he presents are the “opt in” policy, which requires people actively add their name to the organ donation register if they want to donate, the “opt out” policy, which sees all citizens’ names put on the organ donation register and requires all citizens who don’t want to donate their organs to remove their name, and the “mandated choice” policy, which forces all new drivers declare whether they want to donate or not in order to get their driver’s licence. Hooper then goes on to discuss how the Welsh Assembly approved an “opt out” policy and examines the arguments on either side of the debate. He says that defenders of this new system believe it augments the chance that people will have their wishes granted after they die. He then says that the people against the system believe that it results in a higher proportion of donors being citizens who did not want to donate but did not get a chance to remove themselves from the organ donation registry. The problem with this is that it’s hard to justify removing organs from those opposed to donation as being worse than failing to remove organs from those in favor. Hooper then goes on to conclude the article by talking about how this new “opt out” system will affect the Welsh in regards to their relationship with the English.
There are a few competing ethical principles on either side of this debate. Supporting the “opt out” policy are the principles of the right to life and the greater good. Supporters of the new policy believed that all patients waiting for an organ to save their lives have a right to live. They believe that “opt in” was wrong because it condemns many of those patients to death. By switching policies, more people in need will receive organs, upholding their right to life. The principle of the greater good can be applied in this way too. By switching from “opt in” to “opt out,” Wales has expanded the number of potential organ donors. Although some of them may not have wanted their organs to be donated, one unwilling donor could save multiple lives; this is the greater good in the eyes of the supporters of the “opt out” policy. Those opposed to this policy cite the ethical principle of freedom of choice. It is part of a person’s freedom of choice as a human to decide whether they want to donate their organs after they die. Opponents of the new scheme know that there are many factors involved in getting a name put on the organ donation registry in the “opt in” system and these same factors may obstruct getting a name taken off the organ donation register in an “opt out” system. They fear that many of the organs donated under the new system will come from unwilling donors, which they see as a violation of the freedom of choice.
Personally, I feel that the arguments for the “opt out” system are stronger than those against. Although it is next to impossible to rank ethical principles, in this case I feel that the right to life outweighs the freedom of choice. Human instinct is geared toward survival, and I believe that we should do everything in our power to ensure the survival of others.
Which side of the debate are you on?